Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Sunday, February 21, 2021
The Chirping Bird Sesshin.
Thursday, February 11, 2021
As Hakuin Zenji sings in his Song of Zazen: "All beings by nature are Buddhas, as ice by nature is water." Training the perceptual mind to see everything as an example of the awakened heart takes some work: we have to let many of our old rigidly held patterns around differentiation, especially our certainty about right and wrong, you and me, this and that, life and death, Buddha and not-Buddha, become looser.
While there are indeed different qualities to everything we encounter, and it's vitally important not to ignore differentiation, there is another view which can provide some delight to the discouraged heart in difficult times. A friend recently told me that she had realized, in mourning a beloved parent, that even though on one level her parent was definitely dead, on another level they weren't. She said to me, "there is no life and death!" Her parent is definitely gone from any ordinary way of perceiving a person, but she realized that everyone she meets, alive or dead, is like this. Her parent was once a baby, once a child, ultimately old and ill. All of these versions of her parent were true. And this perception applies to living people, too. She had discovered the truth of the teachings for herself. In the Mahayana (Great Vehicle) teachings the historical Buddha, who died 2600 years ago, is still alive, and takes an infinite variety of forms, populating the Buddha fields, which can be perceived everywhere.
My two-year-old grandson is learning about Buddhas -- he got a plushy toy version for his birthday. This is a Buddha who needs kisses and also has to brush his teeth. He needs to be greeted with a cheerful, "hi Buddha!" For many months he has been seeing Buddha statues, as well as Christian statues like the one pictured above, as different versions of Buddha. He sees Buddhas everywhere. As his process of ego-development and learning about differentiation continues to develop, I wonder if he will retain this freshness, and say "hi Buddha" everywhere he goes, to every religious statue he encounters. Whatever happens to him, and to my grieving friend, they inspire me to remember to see all beings as Buddha and to see Buddhas everywhere.
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Masked and Unmasked
|Priest and friend, masked and unmasked|
It's been a long time since I posted anything beyond news of events at the Temple. Something about the times we've been living through have left me "taking the backward step" as Dogen says, rather than reaching out to people through this blog. But I've made a new commitment, and, in the way of all such plans, while I am fairly sure that this post will happen, I can only hope and trust that I'll continue to post more regularly.
The photo above is from a billboard in front of our local Roman Catholic church, about a national giving campaign. I love the look on the face of our old friend white Jesus, happily unmasked and looking over the shoulder of one of his priests. There's something about the two of them that points us all to finding a way to our common ground as human beings in the middle of a pandemic. I've been practicing with my reactivity to people who don't wear masks, figuring that, on some level, they don't believe in the pandemic. While the emotional-cognitive reaction I have is based on delusion, since I don't really know why people out in public aren't wearing masks (did they forget? are they having trouble breathing? are they angels, bodhisattvas or saints appearing among us to show us the way?) it provides an opportunity to look deeply into my own tendency to create reality out of a partial understanding of what's happening at any time, anywhere.
Zen teachings point us to the opportunity to meet everything as fully as we possibly can, to engage directly with the world we perceive and to be suspicious of the conclusions we draw. The guideline is to be curious about everything. I will probably never know why the people I meet during my daily walk are masked or unmasked, but I do know that they are probably human beings like me, struggling to figure out how to live in a challenging world. This allows a more spacious internal experience, and I am then free to greet them sincerely, with a hidden, masked smile, as another companion on the path.
Saturday, February 6, 2021